The rise of inequality combined with the growing distrust of the governing and corporate elite is a defining issue of our time.
The goal of broadly shared prosperity and a more equal society is falling to pieces, as a skewed system channels wealth into fewer and fewer hands.
This raises a disturbing question: Are we headed towards a new feudalism?
We can call it by different names, a corporatist state, oligarchy, whatever we want to call it our society seems to be moving farther from the ideals we keep in our minds.
The new feudalism, with masses of people struggling and a few massively wealthy individuals in control was something we would have thought was left far in our past. And yet, it’s where our society could easily end up, if we aren’t there already.
Consider this chart, courtesy of Zero Hedge:
It’s easy to think our society is so far beyond those massive inequalities, particularly because of the trappings of wealth and technology we see all around us. Most of us have smartphones, many people have cars, we have heating in our homes, water, and plumbing (though there are some exceptions even in 2016).
These things can distract us from the fact that concentration of wealth and power is as harmful now as in any era. It’s about more than just money, it’s about the loss of freedom, and the loss of power that people suffer when society becomes feudalistic.
The obvious and subtle indignities people suffer, the lives lived on the edge of fear, the dreams deferred, the opportunities denied, these are all the costs of a society that is dominated by a small, closed-minded elite repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Of course, those mistakes may benefit the elite now, but the societal damage and potential future unrest will cost all of us unless we stop it in time.
A new feudalism could put everything we have worked for at risk, because it is impossible to keep a society together when the experiences of the elite and everyone else are so drastically different.
Remember, every time you hear someone mention sacrifice, ask whether they include themselves in it, or whether what they really mean is that you sacrifice while they enrich themselves.
I leave you with a quote from Louis Sullivan:
“The feudal concept of self-preservation is poisoned at the core by the virulent assumption of master and man, of potentate and slave, of external and internal suppression of the life urge of the only one – of its faith in human sacrifice as a means of salvation.”